2017 Yearender: Leaders in the limelight


(Left to right) Aung San Suu Kyi, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump and Theresa May.
(Left to right) Aung San Suu Kyi, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump and Theresa May. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/REUTERS
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Indonesia's former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Indonesia's former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad.PHOTOS: EPA-EFE/REUTERS
(From left) Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, jailed Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha and India's richest man Mukesh Ambani.
(From left) Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, jailed Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha and India's richest man Mukesh Ambani.PHOTOS: AFP, BLOOMBERG

As 2017 closes, our correspondents around the world look at the challenges and accomplishments of leaders.

Leaders in the limelight

President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines

The president is as popular as ever with his people, but 2017 has thrown up some challenges to his boundary-pushing rule, says Philippines correspondent Raul Dancel.

The biggest shock was the Marawi City siege in May, when extremists inspired by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria stormed the city and held on to it for five months despite onslaughts by six army battalions.

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Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia

He has been a mainstay of Malaysian politics for the past half-century. But this year saw Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the receiving end of attacks after he joined the opposition.

Malaysia Bureau chief Shannon Teoh noted that the wily 92-year-old had a retort for every attack mounted against him, and the popular politician still captures the imagination of the Malaysian public.

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Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Indonesia

 

The 51-year-old seemed poised to make history as the first elected governor of Jakarta who is not only Chinese but also Christian. But Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known by his nickname Ahok, was defeated at the polls by education minister Anies Baswedan in April and was jailed for blasphemy against Islam a few weeks later.

Indonesia Bureau chief Francis Chan said Basuki's straight-talking manner and championing of pluralism has endeared him to many but also attracted many opponents.

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Asian figures who made the news

Aung San Suu Kyi: Nobel Peace laureate who fell from grace

She was the poster child of Asean's last frontier, the opposition head turned state leader on whom many had pinned their hopes for Myanmar's democratic transition.

But 2017 would be the year she dramatically fell from grace - and soured relations with many Western organisations that had sustained her during her time as a political prisoner.

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Kem Sokha​: Cambodian opposition leader jailed in political crackdown

Kem Sokha began the year as a vice-president of Cambodia's biggest opposition party which posed a challenge to long ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen. He assumed the mantle of opposition leader after his exiled predecessor resigned.

Now, as the year draws to a close, much of his political network has been dismantled, and many colleagues are in exile. Holed up in Trapeang Plong prison near the Vietnamese border, he is being questioned for alleged treason.

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Mukesh Ambani​: For Reliance chief, no sector too big to shake up

India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, is known for making big moves.

He lives in the country's most expensive house - a 27-storey building in Mumbai - and presented his wife with a luxury jet on one of her birthdays.

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Leaders in East Asia

Xi's influence grows at home and abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping's year of 2017 was bookended by two events that made the world sit up and take notice of his growing stature as a global statesman and the immense power he wields at home.

One was his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January that gave notice of his intention to lead his country in keeping economic globalisation going, in the face of the United States' retreat with new President Donald Trump's America First policy.

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Abe ends on a high after surviving roller-coaster year

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will end what has been a roller-coaster year on a high, with steadying support ratings on the back of a resounding snap-election victory.

Mr Abe, 63, has led Japan since December 2012. And he could be in power until October 2021, when the next general election is due, if he survives an internal Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership vote next September as widely expected.

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Moon wins hearts of South Koreans but faces some criticisms

With the election of Mr Moon Jae In in May this year, South Koreans finally have a charismatic "People's President" to call their own.

Mr Moon, 64, is a liberal leader who listens to the people and reaches out to them. He clearly bears in mind that he rode to office on the back of public anger and desire for change after his predecessor was impeached in March.

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Leaders in the US and Europe

Trump: America's disruptive President

As his first year in office draws to a close, President Donald Trump can ride on good economic figures, which should persist into next year.

The world's largest economy grew 3.2 per cent in the third quarter, the stock market hit record highs and unemployment is at a 17-year low, although the positive trend began before he took office.

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Merkel: A political titan in Europe is shaken

What goes up, must come down; all politicians are familiar with this iron rule of their profession. And that is the rule which German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the woman who has effectively run Europe for over a decade, is almost certain to be reminded of next year.

She is an instinctively cautious politician. Yet she can also be very courageous.

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May: Political weakness a source of strength

Few of Europe's leaders had a worse year. While Britain's Theresa May started the year brimming with ideas for reform of her country, she ends it stumbling from one political row to another, struggling to quash daily media speculation that she is about to be ditched by her own party.

Yet, she has also surprised her critics by displaying a remarkable resilience and determination in negotiating Britain's departure from the European Union. So, continuing to clock up solid achievements on that front may well lift her dismal political fortunes in the coming year.

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Macron: Jupiter descends to Earth

"I don't want to be the leader of Europe; I want to be one of the leaders," French President Emmanuel Macron quipped recently in response to a journalist's question.

He could have hardly said anything else. But modesty does not sit well with the man often referred to at home as "Jupiter", after the king of gods in ancient Rome. For many in Europe, he is the continent's miraculous saviour.

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